Celtics

Celtics stay on top of East with 110-104 victory over Wizards

Celtics stay on top of East with 110-104 victory over Wizards

WASHINGTON - Kyrie Irving scored 12 of Boston's last 17 points and finished with 28 to help the Celtics remain in sole possession of the Eastern Conference lead with a 110-104 overtime victory over the Washington Wizards on Thursday night.

Jaylen Brown added five of his 18 points in overtime for Boston. The Celtics have won five of six, and remained a game ahead of Toronto in the race for the East's top playoff seed after the Raptors win over New York earlier Thursday.

Otto Porter had 27 points and 11 rebounds for Washington, and Bradley Beal had 18 points and matched his career high with nine assists.

But as John Wall remains sidelined following knee surgery, the Wizards committed 22 turnovers and shot just 2 for 12 in the overtime period, dropping their second straight game after winning five straight.

Irving went 9 of 10 from the foul line in his second game back from a thigh injury. And after Boston allowed Washington to come back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit, he tied it from the line in the late seconds on three made foul shots after luring Markieff Morris into a foul on a 3-point attempt.

That was part of 10 straight points for Irving before finding Brown for a layup that made it 105-103 with 2:32 left in overtime.

Brown stretched the lead to five when he hit a contested baseline 3-pointer about a minute later, and the Wizards failed to get within a possession after that.

TIP-INS

Celtics: Signed and activated free agent C Greg Monroe, but did not make a trade at the NBA trade deadline. ... Coach Brad Stevens wasn't surprised. "It was probably the least amount of time that I was paying attention to it or on the phone over these days in five years," he said. ... Monroe was one of three Celtics players to receive a technical foul in separate incidents, along with F Marcus Morris and G Terry Rozier

Wizards: Traded G/F Sheldon Mac to the Atlanta Hawks for a 2019 second-round pick in a move coach Scott Brooks said gave Washington the flexibility to sign one or two players. "We're definitely looking," Brooks said. ... Mac (torn Achilles), who was then waived by Atlanta, has not played this season. ... F Kelly Oubre received a technical foul in the fourth quarter.

NOT TAKING THE BAIT

Although the Wizards won their first five games after losing G John Wall to knee surgery, Brooks denied the notion his absence has been a positive.

"He knows how I feel about him," Brooks said. "He knows how the organization, his teammates feel about him. And for anyone to think that we're not better with John, that's for clickbait."

ALMOST LOUISIANA'S MONROE

After reaching a buyout agreement with Phoenix, Louisiana native Monroe said he also considered signing with the New Orleans Pelicans after they lost C DeMarcus Cousins to a torn Achilles in January. "They obviously had a need there at my position," Monroe said. "It's home for me. So it was definitely a tough decision. But it was hard to resist here."

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A trip home should help shots fall for Celtics youthful core

A trip home should help shots fall for Celtics youthful core

BOSTON – The youthful energy of the Boston Celtics has been a constant this season and is one of the main reasons why the Celtics are still among the teams still with games to play.

But being too excited has its downside, something we have seen more of in Boston’s last two games against Cleveland – both losses.

That exuberance on the part of some of the Celtics’ young players manifested itself into missed dunks, blown lay-ups and some bad defensive sequences that have factored heavily into this series being tied at two games apiece after Boston jumped out to a 2-0 series lead.

Boston is hoping the comforts of home will settle down the young troops in tonight’s Game 5 matchup.

Jaylen Brown led the Celtics with 25 points in Game 4, but his point tally could have been even higher if not for missed dunks and lay-up attempts driving towards the basket.

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“Just … going too fast, too excited,” said Brown, in his second NBA season. “I just need to slow down; missed a bunch of easy opportunities. Made some bad turnovers, things like that.”

In the first quarter of Game 4, Brown had two points but missed six of his seven shot attempts and played all but 20 seconds in the first. And rookie Jayson Tatum, the team’s leading scorer (18.0 points per game) in the playoffs, was scoreless after missing all three of his field goal attempts in the first quarter of Game 4 before finishing with 17 points. Their struggles were a reflection of the Celtics as a team which shot a collective 26.9 percent (7-for-26) from the field in the first quarter. But the point made by Brown about being in a rush, is what you come to expect from a team that’s strength lies heavily in something as unstable as youth.

It hasn’t been an issue this season, but with what’s at stake and most of these guys having never been in this deep in the postseason, it’s understandable how their anxiousness to do well might at times get the best of them.

That said, don’t think for a minute that the struggles they had at times in Game 3 or 4 will do anything to dent their confidence coming into tonight's game.

“Sometimes you just miss shots,” said Tatum who was named to the NBA’s all-rookie first team on Tuesday. “Some of the dunks, the lay-ups we missed, more than likely will go in next time.”

And as far as being sped up by the Cavs, Tatum believes that had a lot to do with the Celtics being in catch-up mode.

“We been through that sometimes,” he said. “On the road, once you get down it gets loud. You get in a hurry, trying to get the lead back. We have to understand that we can’t get it back in one play."

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Or with one player.

Because for Boston to get regain a series edge with a Game 5 win tonight, it won’t be one or two players to get it done.

Boston will have to do it the way they’ve been doing it all season, and that’s with a collection of players chipping in with whatever it is they do best.

Many of those contributions will most likely come from their youthful core as they continue to help pave the way for more success for the Celtics and with that, sustain the youth movement that has been instrumental in Boston's unexpectedly deep playoff journey. 

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Stevens facing scrutiny for first time after two losses in Cleveland

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File photo

Stevens facing scrutiny for first time after two losses in Cleveland

BOSTON -- Brad Stevens is a genius.

Brad Stevens is overrated.

Brad Stevens gets the most out of the least amount of talent.

On the brightest of stages, Brad Stevens can't get it done.

MORE A. SHERROD BLAKELY

The views on Celtics coach Brad Stevens are all over the map right now, based on Boston being in a 2-2 series tie with Cleveland after the Cavs held serve at home with a pair of wins.

The Celts' losing at Cleveland didn't spark the questions about Stevens. It's how they lost those games.

Cleveland didn't do anything fancy or all that complicated in getting back in this series after the Celtics raced out to a 2-0 series lead.

The Cavs are targeting Terry Rozier -- similar, in many ways, to how they went after Isaiah Thomas last year -- and are forcing defensive switches that leaves Rozier in a bad spot.

Rozier is a solidly built point guard (6-foot-2, 190 pounds) but he's no physical match for LeBron James or Kevin Love or Tristan Thompson -- players the Cavs have tried their best to get Rozier to defend via switches. For the most part, they've have had success doing so.

"Hope they miss" seems to be Rozier's best-case scenario when this happens.

Watching Rozier get bounced into the paint by the James-Love-Thompson trio has left many Celtics fans wondering W.W.B.D. -- What Will Brad Do?

So far, not much.

He considered a lineup change before deciding to keep Marcus Morris with the first unit and Aron Baynes coming off the bench in Game 4.

In the first quarter of Game 4 Boston fell behind 34-18, similar to how their 30-point Game 3 shellacking started.

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But Boston got better as the game progressed, showing glimpses of the team that finished with the second-best record in the East and had the best road record of any team in the Eastern Conference.

And as Kyle Korver came off screens and knocked down shots, or George Hill finished at the rim, or Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love treated the offensive glass like property and they were the time share owners of it, Celtics fans waited for that moment, when Stevens would make a tweak/adjustment and -- bam! -- everything changed.

That moment, however, never came. And it's opened Stevens to a level of second-guessing he hasn't experienced since maybe his rookie season in the league.

Stevens is a wonderful coach, easily top-five in the NBA. The reason he's so widely regarded is his ability to recognize his own team's weaknesses and mask them.

That hasn't happened in this series and there are questions, legitimate questions, if it will happen at all.

Better team communication? More touches for Al Horford? Limiting the isolations on Rozier with a bigger scorer? Will any or all of these things happen?

The bottom line is clear: Boston has to be better than we what we saw in Cleveland. That not only applies to the players, but also to Stevens.

The one thing about Brad Stevens that you always have to respect is his willingness to take ownership when things aren't going right.

He'll be the first to tell you that everyone needs to improve . . . himself included. And while that acknowledgment may not seem like that big a deal, it's huge.

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Because his willingness to take some of the blame for what we've seen of late trickles down to the rest of his players, who know they too have a role in Boston losing its last two games.

With that ownership comes an understanding that for this series to shift back in their favor, it's going to take the entire group to step their games up.

And as we've seen with this group, they have seemingly been at their best when adversity strikes. They've shown an ability to thrive under pressure, rather than be totally thrown off course.

Which is why despite losing two straight to the Cavs, the Celtics return home feeling pretty good about themselves.

They lost Game 4 but did a number of positive things that I imagine they'll look to do more of on Wednesday.

Boston managed to get Horford defended by Love more in Game 4 and had a good bit of success with that matchup. Rozier was better at handling screens and switches in the second half than we saw in the first, which allowed Boston's defense to collectively play better.

The Celtics were doing more of the things that fans have come to expect. The kind of plays that reflect positively on the players as well as their leader, Brad Stevens.

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